Being Vulnerable: The Ultimate Sign Of Courage and Confidence

I'm making this up as I go.  It's true of this article.  It's true of this group.  It's true of fatherhood and life.

I know how that sounds.  I know you might be thinking, "We'll why the heck am I reading this then?"  The truth is it's because we're all making it up as we go.  Life moves fast these days and it's only getting faster.  By the time you figure out what the best diet is for you and your family, you find out that there's a new study saying all the previous research was wrong.  Then there's the struggle to keep up with technology: master one piece of software or a social media platform and there's a new one ready to take it's place.  Change is the only constant and we all have to adapt as we go.

It's freeing to be open and honest (see "Resetting Our Default"), but that's because honesty takes a willingness to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is scary.  Admitting that I'm making this whole fatherhood thing up is a little scary.  But how many times did you hear someone say some variation of, "They don't give you an instruction manual when you take the baby home from the hospital."  While that's true, it doesn't stop people from writing tons of books on parenting.  It doesn't stop people from having children either.

Part of the unbelievable rewards of parenting come from the connection we have with another person.  Connection is the most rewarding part of all human interactions, but it's hard to make a connection when we don't let ourselves be vulnerable.  We hide our true selves because we fear judgement and rejection of who we really are.  If we try and be the person we think other people want us to be we create a shield for our true self which makes it harder to be hurt.

As Brené Brown points out in her TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability (video below article), we create that shield because we feel that "we are not enough".

I'm not rich enough.

I'm not smart enough.

I'm not strong enough.

I'm not _______ enough. 

Remember our conversation about ego?  If you feel that you're not worthy, then your ego is out of wack.  It's not entitlement, it's worthiness.  And worthiness is earned.  You earn all of the things above.  If you haven't earned them already, you have the potential to earn them within you.  But it takes energy, focus, and it starts by allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  Let's say you want to do some pull-ups, but you can't do them just yet.  It's probably pretty hard to go to a pull-up bar and try because it means you might fail, heck you're probably going to fail.  In this instance, being vulnerable means admitting that, but knowing you're not going to fail for ever.  So you start by jumping up holding on as tight as you can an letting yourself down slowly.  Or maybe you use a chair as an assist.  But by expending the energy time after time, focusing on the small improvements you make each time, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the first place, you will eventually be able to do a pull up.  The more focus and energy you place on that goal, the faster you will achieve it.  (Side note: if this is an actual goal for you, Frank has created an awesome video to help get you there.)  It takes vulnerability and action.  Don't tell me what your priorities are, show me!

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom.
Only the person who risks is truly free.
— Leo F. Buscaglia

So how do you start being vulnerable?  Be honest!  We started talking about the importance of honesty in the article "Resetting Our Default".  It might sound simple, but being honest is not easy.  Being honest often takes courage because we don't always like to hear the truth.  But when you pair honesty with compassion you can make a genuine connection with another person.

I recently went skydiving for the first time.  I'm a bit of an adrenaline junky so I was excited, but, I was also terrified.  Never have I felt more vulnerable in my life than when I was free falling from two-miles above the earth.  But something crazy happens on the other side of that fear: peace.  Once my body regained its composure, it was calm, serene even. It might be hard to imagine peace when you're barreling toward the earth at about 120mph, but that's exactly what it was.  And it's the exact same way back here on the ground.  Think about.  Have you ever had to tell someone news that you were dreading telling them?  Your stomach all twisted up in knots as fear and anxiety take over.  What happens after you tell them?  Usually, a flood of relief.  It's extremely similar to the peace and calm you feel when free-falling during a skydive.  

So what's the alternative?  As Brené Brown mentions, we're in debt, obese, and addicted as a society.  Why?  Because rather than let ourselves be vulnerable we try to numb the anxiety and fear by buying things, eating things, or medicating.   When they're young, our kids don't do any of those things.  They learn that from us and the rest of society as they grow up.  Somewhere along the line we learn to swallow our feelings, to hide our true self and it ruins us for the rest of our lives.  We try to be who or what society wants us to be, rather than the people we want to be, rather than the people we are.  Somewhere along the way showing others who we are becomes a risky proposition.  

You're going to screw up from time to time.  Some people aren't going to like you.  And you're never going to learn, love, or live if you're too worried about it to let yourself be vulnerable.  So what are you waiting for?  Go ahead and jump already!